Ansible Station 24: Lasers, Love, and Language

A science fiction adventure about language, politics, and romance.

Ansible Station 24: Lasers, Love, and Language

The Milky Way is on the brink of violence. As an interpreter on a diplomatic space station, you preoccupy a perilous political position. Soften arguments, reframe threats, and flatter the diplomats to keep the peace for one more day.

Tip the Scales, Save the Galaxy

The communal Crescent Worlders cry out for justice. The libertarian AFTA members grow ever hungrier in their expansion. The monarchistic Autarchs demand compliance. All three factions trust only that the others are out to get them. And you stand in the middle, begging for peace.

This is a story of language, linguistics, diplomacy, and war. The fate of trillions is in your hands, and you aren’t paid nearly enough for your work.

Dive Into Detailed Lore

This science fiction adventure takes place in a fictional future Milky Way Galaxy where humans have colonised habitable planets as far as they could travel. Faster-than-light travel is available, but still comparatively slow given the incomprehensibly vast distances involved. Ansibles, instantaneous communication devices, help keep human society cohesive. Three factions have emerged, and conflict brews from irreconciliable differences.

Region Map

Click to expand the map.

Factions and Languages

Galactic Factions

The Autarchs, autocratic nobility who speak the language Fleschette.

Apolitical Free Trade Association (AFTA) members, shrewd businesspeople and lawyers who speak the languages Pingrit and Lojit.

The Crescent worlders, low-tech commune farmers who speak dialects of Scythe.

Autarch

The Autarchs (oh-tarks) spout platitudes of unity, strength, harmony, and artistic expression, but they achieve these through staunch authoritarianism. The Autarchs enjoy the greatest amount of political power in the galaxy by conquering and reeducating entire solar systems to follow their traditions. They value the aesthetics of art and beauty above all else, though their definitions of such are quite strict.

Those born and raised in Autarch systems speak Fleschette, a language governed by strict rules around grammar and register. Autarch linguists argue that the language enhances (rather than stifles) self-expression because the confinement of the rules inspires greater creativity in its use. Most speakers flit seamlessly between truth and metaphor and expect you to assume the most charitable interpretation.

Autarchs tend to dislike speaking any language other than Fleschette for cultural reasons; they view Fleschette as the perfect example of what a language should be.

AFTA

Explicitly political despite the name, The Apolitical Free Trade Association is radically libertarian in its ideals. They tend to form companies rather than colonies, and as such there are AFTA members in practically every system in the galaxy. Given the choice between acquiring greater political power and greater purchasing power, they’ll pick the one that gives their people greater choice. Everyone is obligated to live their lives the way they choose, given that it adds value to AFTA.

AFTA boasts of how it coined the language Pingrit, also known as GSL (the Galaxy’s Second Language). Similar to Pidgin from historical records on Earth, Pingrit is a simplified trade language with a limited but pragmatic vocabulary. Pingrit was originally a constructed language, but has evolved over time to a combination of constructed and natural language. All languages in the game are substituted with English, but the default is always assumed to be Pingrit.

Because of Pingrit’s limited, imprecise vocabulary, a more complex form of Pingrit was constructed by AFTA linguists for the purpose of drafting legal documentation. This is called Lojit, a punishingly precise language similar to computer code that some say removes all ambiguity in speech. Despite the lofty ideals, it does not in fact remove all ambiguity, hence the continued need for lawyers. Some scholars tried to start a movement to replace Pingrit with Lojit entirely, but this was abandoned because it takes about seven years of intensive study to become even passably fluent in Lojit.

Crescent

Spiritual, free, and community-driven, Crescent worlds consist of Earth-like planets that support massive agricultural operations. Most Crescent farmers never leave where they were born, content with the community they’ve developed on a local level and having no greater aspirations to explore the galaxy. That said, despite its roots in spiritualism and naturalism, Crescent has made major footprints by fielding missions to solar systems offering promising new worlds to terraform. They need a lot of land, and they’re not afraid to fight for it.

Crescent worlders speak dialects of Scythe, a colloquial everyday language with hundreds of thousands of variations. It’s a hodge-podge language that developed wholly naturally over many different systems and has very few set-in-stone rules. Its dictionaries are either very short or exceedingly large depending on whether the linguist intends to list the few universal Scythe terms or capture the staggeringly vast colloquial vocabularies across the many Crescent worlds.

Crescent worlders generally dislike the role that Pingrit has taken as the de facto language of trade. They view it as a language that stifles the imagination by trying to reduce human experience into a small sample of key phrases.

Other Factions

There are hundreds of other factions in the galaxy each with their own languages and traditions which might pop up every now and then throughout the story. The main character speaks Fleschette, Pingrit, Lojit, and Scythe with relative fluency, and the study of languages and linguistics gives them an edge when gaining conversational fluency with other bespoke languages, but it’s not possible to know them all. As such, most conversations in the game are in Pingrit.

Ansibles

Ansible Stations

The one thing that keeps human society cohesive is the presence of ansibles. Ansibles are faster-than-light communication devices tethered to massive space stations. These were originally created by a mysterious race of alien progenitors, the Operators, who still exist but are greatly diminished from the height of their power, especially now that humans have moved in. Each ansible requires an Operator for function and maintenance.

Ansible Station 24 is occupied by a crew of eight: a hydroponics priest, an astronaut, a station engineer, an ansible operator, a combat drone, a maintenance robot, a landlord, and a political interpreter. It’s a quiet life when the politicians aren’t screaming at each other in the conference room.

Ansibles act similarly to telegrams from historical Earth records, in that they offer nigh-instantaneous communication but are fiddly and difficult to use, and they are very limited in the kinds of information that they can transmit. Operating them requires specialised engineers and equipment constructed outside of planetary atmospheres. There are only about 350 of them throughout the galaxy, and together they provide a web of connections across a vast network that effectively reaches every colonised solar system.

The stations hold a special role in galactic politics as well, acting as neutral stations unaligned with any faction, which means important political conferences are almost always held at an Ansible station.

Life aboard one of the stations is warm, cozy, and comfortable, with vast libraries to explore and opulent furnishing to lounge in. There are no windows; it was a priority to hide the stations from the reality of the uncaring chill of the void outside.

Ansible Station 24 was originally built in a low traffic area, until Crescent worlders terraformed three planets around a nearby solar system. AFTA traders moved in quickly to capitalise on the immigration boom, and the Autarchs jealously set up bases on moons and asteroids, searching for a way to take power for themselves.

Romance Your Crewmates

War will come to the galaxy. Enjoy your time while you still have it.

Seven characters are available as romance options. June and Beckett live on the station with you while the rest maintain a long distance correspondence.

  • June of Starlight (f, 26), an exile from a Crescent world, grows the station’s food in hydroponics.
  • Brett Beckett (m, 39) fought his entire adult life for Ansible Station 24 in a bitter court case and now, having finally won the case, works as its steward.
  • Alex Formic (nb, 60), your worst enemy, is an AFTA oligarch who champions radical libertarian ideology.
  • Dahlia Metric (f, 38), as beautiful as she is smart, is a spacefaring courtesan often seen on the arm of powerful politicians.
  • August of the Solar Winds (m, 25) is an inexperienced interpreter, like you, hailing originally from a Crescent world.
  • Princeps Minoa I of Catastron (nb, 20) is an Operator, part of the ancient race that constructed the faster-than-light communication devices called ansibles. Minoa was adopted by an Autarch family.
  • London I of Catastron (m, f, or nb, 23) is a provisional delegate for the Autarchs, training to become a full-fledged diplomat and determined to have fun while they do so.
Romance Option Details

image

June (f, 26)

June is a Crescent “growth priest” who manages the station’s hydroponics. She grows the food in a dedicated agricultural block. Unlike most growth priests, she has moved on from the Crescent community in which she was born. Her reasons are undisclosed. She keeps her feelings close to her chest.

image

Beckett (m, 39)

Beckett won the rights to oversee the management of Ansible Station 24 in a bitter AFTA court case after his father’s death, a case that took fifteen years and his entire self-made fortune to win. Pushing 40 and now having only the station to his name, he has resolved to stay on as manager for the near future while he figures out what to do with his life. Mostly, right now, it means he gets to wear a bathrobe and bunny slippers all day without anyone calling him out.

image

Alex (nb, 60)

A charming, semi-retired businessperson, Alex Formic runs a space-based auto manufacturing company. They were pulled out of retirement to supply surface-to-space shuttles when Crescent worlders needed to evacuate to make way for an AFTA mining operation, and under their leadership the company suddenly surged in market share. Alex realized that they were getting complacent and that the complacency was galaxy-wide: humans were content to just rest on their laurels rather than explore the galaxy further and improve their lives. They want to light a fire under the galaxy’s ass. Yes, that means conflict, but it also means opportunity. Not just for them. For everyone.

image

Dahlia (f, 38)

As an independently-operating AFTA courtesan, Dahlia arrives at the station early in the game as a companion to some haughty Autarch politician. Fascinated with the station and its weird, tiny culture, she befriends the station’s interpreter and asks to keep in touch in her travels. Throughout the game, the interpreter has the option to share a long-distance correspondence with Dahlia as she explores the galaxy. Like the interpreter, she also has a desire to ensure galactic peace, and is also in a unique position to subtly tip the scales.

image

August (m, 25)

Early in the game, the interpreter meets August, another interpreter who works for the Crescent worlds. A proponent (and practitioner) of free love and communal living, he is deeply uncomfortable working in space, but his talents as a polyglot have taken him down a path he never anticipated. He sees a bit of himself in the interpreter, who also isn’t fully satisfied with their lot in life, and seeks to keep up a correspondence with them throughout the game as he is ferried across the galaxy wherever Crescent worlders are in need of an interpreter like him.

Minoa.PNG

Minoa (nb, 20)

Humans aren’t the only sentient species in the galaxy, nor the only ones with political power. The Operators, as they’re called, designed the original Ansibles and constructed Ansible Station 0 many thousands of years before humans arrived. Very few Operators remain, but one Operator family holds a prominent position in the Autarch hierarchy. The noble princeps Minoa made a pilgrimage to Ansible Station 24 with their family when they were young and reaches out to the station many years later during the game’s events, unprompted, curious of what became of it. The interpreter has the option to maintain a correspondence with the princeps throughout the game.

London I I.PNGLondon I II.PNG

London (m, f, or nb, 23)

London I of Catastron is a provisional Autarch delegate, meaning they are under the tutelage of a primarch from another royal family as they gain enough experience to become a full-fledged delegate. London’s best friend Alexandria (the primarch’s daughter) is being married to an AFTA president’s son in a political alliance, so, during the negotiation of terms on Ansible Station 24, London treats it as the last hurrah of their friendship.

Play the Demo

Content Warning

Coarse language, alcohol and drug use, mild sexual references, and confronting subject matter that is discussed but not explicitly shown, including slavery, genocide, and terrorism.

Best Reading Experience
  • Blast some synthwave.
  • Read the Foreword which explains the thought process behind how languages are represented in the story.
  • If you find that you’re having trouble keeping track of names, terms, and references, you can always review the Encyclopedia Galactica from the stats page.
Progress

Current demo includes:

  • Chapter 1
  • 15,000 words total

Next demo includes:

  • Chapters 1 and 2
  • 50,000 words total
  • Before the end of August 2022
Previous Subtitles
  • Language is No Barrier

https://dashingdon.com/play/will2/ansible-station-24/mygame/

Feedback Request

After finishing the demo, consider some of the following questions and follow up in this forum thread.

  • How many typos or mistakes did you spot, and where?
  • Which character did you like the most, and why?
  • Which faction has the moral high ground, in your opinion?
  • Where do you see this story going?
  • How would you describe Ansible Station 24 if you were to recommend it to others?
103 Likes

Love the heroforge models

6 Likes

WoW… @will this is great so far.

2 Likes

Enjoying it so far. Tried an Autarch Interpreter with a soft spot for the Crescents. Disappointed though I couldn’t choose my name. With the Autarch’s names looking Roman, it would have been nice to use female praenomen conventions. Especially if I could choose something like Gaia.

Any plans to use International Phonetic Alphabet? I have a few linguist friends, so started learning it myself.

Oh, and does anyone know that poem that starts off as a limerick, but then turns into a haiku? Goes something along the lines of “There was a young man from York, who got limericks and haikus confused”.

1 Like

phonetic alphabet

Pronunciation isn’t the source of tension in the story; it’s assumed that the interpreter is fluent enough not to stumble over their words. I want the choices to be about how much you can translate faithfully versus how much is up to your own interpretation. All of the languages are represented with English. There’ll never be any tricks with spelling or grammar or other technical aspects of the languages, aside from things that are legitimately fun, like poetic structure.

To clarify: The interpreter is never outright wrong in how they translate. Each option is always a legitimate translation, with the choice being in what legitimate translation they should choose. The interpreter will never say “rifle” when they mean “flower”.

There are, however, translations that are more appropriate to pick.

Haiku limerick

There was a young man

From Pews, whose limericks were

Secretly haikus

That’s a good name suggestion. I’ll add that.

There’s a few advantages and disadvantages to letting the player fully write their own name. Right now I’m leaving it with a big selection of names that each illustrate the naming conventions of the different factions. Might add in a text box option eventually.

4 Likes

Loved the demo there is much to look forward to and I think I happened to do pretty well over all in my interpretors first case.

Didn’t notice any typos at least nothing glaring do good job on that front :smiley:

Got to say going to miss those diplomats if they don’t make a return appearance in future cases.
Of them my favorite is Rome

Looking forward to seeing the mentioned characters that haven’t yet made a appearance as well want to learn more of June’s back story :: Snickers :: first playthrough as autrach back ground and she wasn’t happy with how first case ended but so want to bring her to my MC way of thinking and being amicable at least.

That said romance wise first playthrough going with august I think.

1 Like

I love it already.

Autarchs are literally American Civil War Virginians lmao.

Feedback on Demo

Specifics:

  • “Flowers for Numbers was a heartbreaking children’s film about a family that adopts a security drone after the death of their son;”

Is this a reference to the Haley Joel Osment film Artificial Intelligence?

  • 'Incensed, Rome continues, “Crescent worlder education in law insufficient for purposes.”

I believe this is supposed to be Dr. Gren continuing after you choose for him to go in the negotiation. The type of language seems to fit more to him than the Autarch and Rome hasn’t spoken yet so he can’t really continue.

  • With soaring hearts we’re meant to fly [n] With whispered words, with whispered words
    Against the darkness we defy

When speaking to June and picking the “You didn’t come to congratulate me” option. Not sure what the [n] thing is, probably a coding thing but I know nothing about that, and no punctuation at the end.

Overall:
I really love the feature of showing the tension in negotiation at points and how galactic tension is calculated. I do feel like there is some bias to the choices however. Options to convey intent are often rewarded with narrator feedback such as “The right choice here was definitely to capture intent, not literal meaning,” while choices to be literal are very often met with subtly punishing feedback such as “Sometimes, a reinterpretation is warranted to help reduce tensions.” I understand that most of these options have big effects on the tension in the room but the disproportionate amount of positive results for deciding not to be literal makes the reader feel like they should almost always be picking one choice over another. I really like the concept and what’s here so far is vey interesting, best of luck working on it.

4 Likes

60 yr old ro :flushed:

5 Likes

YOOOO I LOVE THIS IF SM!! The individual languages are SO interesting and creative!!! :eyes: :eyes: I may be a little in love with Lojit- just. ahhh!!! Also can’t wait to meet Alex ehsbgyrhenjfsdm. I really liked the characters we met in the first meeting, even though we probably won’t see em again. Most interesting were the Autarch and AFTA representatives (is that the right word?), but I may be a bit biased haha. Other than that, ROBOTS!!! I LOVE THE ROBOTS SO MUCH AND IM so glad we got to hang out with them a little bit during our celebration. I just- AHHHH… I have a soft spot for robots rehsnierfjdkmc<33333 we’re going to be besties by the end of this… Nightcrawlers so sweet and GoliathJRNEFUDHNEDKJM… your honor I love them-

Also I love that we can just be called Interpreter. Enby goals<3

3 Likes

YESSSSSS A VARIETY OF AGES FOR RO’s!!! :heart::heart::heart::heart::heart::heart::heart: Already a fan for life ☆

1 Like

Babylon 5?

1 Like

2 Likes

Darmok and Jalad

I can see you’ve all done your required reading.

5 Likes

I LOVE this! I’ve never read anything like it before, it’s really unique and the struggle to juggle all the different translations to keep everyone’s heads cool is especially intriguing, and just outright fun. I’ll be bookmarking this for sure <3

1 Like

nice top gun reference

1 Like

Update on Ansible Station 24!

  • I am about 20,000 words into Chapter 2, which will be much longer than Chapter 1.
  • New romance option added, who heavily features in Chapter 2.
  • Cleaned up the top post of this forum. All neat and tidy now.
  • Chapter 2 will be added to the demo at the end of August 2022 at the latest.

After Chapter 2, the structure will change quite a bit, with randomly-generated cases instead of a predetermined order. This means that updates will become less frequent but contain a massive amount of new material when they’re released. In total there will be 35 cases, of which you’re likely to see 15-20 during the course of a normal playthrough, spread out over 3 or 4 updates total before the game is finished.

Spoilers for Chapter 2

Beckett after fourteen years fighting a single court case and still no end in sight

Drunk Season 1 GIF by The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

June at any social event

Nervous Justin Timberlake GIF

Crete when you ask them how their day is going

Elvira Mistress Of The Dark Reaction GIF by Arrow Video

Linda immediately fixing every problem on the station

The Hangover Math GIF

Dahlia when the president starts talking politics

Interested Ooo GIF by reactionseditor

Dahlia when the primarch starts talking politics

Awkward Jesse Pinkman GIF by Breaking Bad

London with the interpreter before learning their name

Pepe Le Pew Love GIF by Disney

Alex walking into a room to criticise the president of the free world

Intimidating Conor Mcgregor GIF by UFC

Alex walking into a room to instantly end a 15-year long court case in their client’s favour

Intimidating Conor Mcgregor GIF by UFC

Alex walking into a room because they forgot their phone

Intimidating Conor Mcgregor GIF by UFC

Sam and Zander trying to act like they don’t already know each other

Nervous Key And Peele GIF

Maverick to every member of the station crew

Tom Cruise Goose GIF by Top Gun

The interpreter (AFTA) when the one person who personally screwed them over strolls into the station like they own the place

Surprised Schitts Creek GIF by CBC

The primarch

Bill Murray King GIF

The reader instantly figuring out who the conspirator is the moment they’re introduced

Sherlock Holmes GIF

20 Likes

I really loved this demo, I haven’t seen anything like it before! I would’ve liked to be able to pick my name or maybe at least have a bigger list of possible names from each culture, but I do get why it’s set up the way it is now. In general, though, super cool so far, I can’t wait to see more!

1 Like
  • I didn’t spot any typos
  • I liked Field Mouse the most because she has the tendency to pour gasoline on fire, making the negotiation scene tenser and making me pay more attention to what I say
  • I don’t think any of them have any high ground in the opening scene. You might argue that the pagan agricultural movie-reference speaking ballistic savages (I’m bad at remembering names, sorry :smiley: ) have the moral high ground here because one of their people died due to the incompetence of the other factions, but it could also have been an honest accident.
  • I don’t know, but I’m here for the ride wherever it may take me
  • An attention-intensive negotiation game with glass liquid filling mechanics where you chill with interesting characters in between potentially intergalactic life-ending meetings.

All in all, I think you have something here with the potential of pushing the boundaries of IF. I made the glass liquid filling comparison because that’s the mental model I made in my head while playing it. I have a pitcher and I have to fill three glasses, and I have to guess how much liquid will go in each glass when I make a choice, the objective behind to not spill over any one of them. I think you did a good job communicating this kind of mechanic because, at the end of the negotiation, the game told me that I got % of tension because I had x bars above 50 and y above 75.

I don’t know if there is any way of pleasing everyone, but it’s certainly an interesting thing to find out. You have a lot of design wiggle room if that is something you are looking to do. I also feel that the negotiation parts are mentally challenging (which is not a bad thing) and they interlace well with the social parts of the game. I think that these kinds of loops of intense gameplay → socialize with characters → intense gameplay → etc work well and I am looking forward to new updates.

Even though there is a lot of information to digest at the start, remembering names is not crucial to navigating the game, I figured out quickly that one faction speaks in references, one speaks in poems and another in short, clear sentences

4 Likes

Glad you enjoyed it!

I’ll ask that you don’t call the Crescent worlders savages.

2 Likes

I apologize if I brought any offense to the Crescent worlders, I should have chosen my words more carefully. I was using the word “savage” as the young kids today use it, meaning “cunning and fearless” and not the dictionary sense of “uncivilized”, but it is clear to me now how my poor choice of words could have offended.

I cordially ask you to send my apologies to the Crescent ambassador while I hide under the table. I would prefer my head to remain where it is and not become a decoration on top of their fashionable pikes.

2 Likes